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I just stumbled upon a great article written for Bloomberg Businessweek by Frank Kern, senior vice-president of IBM Global Business Services.

IBM’s Institute for Business Value conducted a survey of 1,500 C-level execs to answer the question, “What do chief executive officers really want?”

Apparently, executives want creativity.

IBM put creativity at the top of the list of leadership qualities desired by organization leaders. The surprising results represent a significant paradigm shift. Creativity is seldom cited as one of the key traits of leaders. More common leadership traits, as Kern says, include “operational effectiveness, influence, or even dedication.”

According to the article (click here to read it), the study’s other key finding was that “global complexity” is emerging front and centre among issues faced by today’s enterprise leaders, so it’s easy to see why creativity is a trait held in high regard.

Kern goes on to say that creative leaders disrupt the status quo, challenge existing business models and make decisions quickly, avoiding “organizational paralysis.”

Creativity – once viewed as a nice-to-have-but-not-necessary trait, often over looked in intelligence testing – is becoming the most sought-after trait in corner offices everywhere.

This begs the question – how do employers test for creativity?

Many organizations require job applicants to write tests throughout the recruitment process but often these tests are designed to assess competency in the “3 R’s” (reading, writing and arithmetic) or software.

Behaviour-based interviewing can reveal a lot about one’s creativity if candidates provide examples that demonstrate their outside-the-box thinking to solve problems and address workplace challenges. But often, the opportunity to truly demonstrate one’s creativity is neither presented nor encouraged in the interview process.

A classic test of creativity often cited in university Psych courses is “Guilford’s Alternative Uses Task” dating back to 1967. Examinees are asked to list as many possible uses for a common item such as a brick, paperclip, string, etc.

Maybe one day, in the near future, this will be a standard test in interviews and leadership exercises – who knows?